In this post, we’re going to discuss and demystify the nine most common female health problems. From vaginal health to pregnancy to different types of cancers, learn more about some of these common health issues and how to deal with each one.
Your vaginal health is one of the most important issues. While discharge and menstruation are completely normal, be on the lookout for things like unusual bleeding in between your menstruation cycle, excessive itching, pain during intercourse, frequent and/or painful urination, unusual vaginal discharge or any unusual growths or spots in your vaginal area. Some of these gynecological issues could be indicators of:
- A yeast infection
- Bacterial vaginosis
- A sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV);
and other gynecological health issues.
Be sure to attend your recommended annual gynecological exams so you are getting regular check-ups. If something doesn’t look or feel right, speak with your primary care doctor or gynecologist about what the issue might be and how to move forward in handling it. For vaginal health, being proactive is key.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
PMDD can often be dismissed as PMS, however, the symptoms of PMDD are much more severe. They include:
- Lasting irritability that can affect other people in your life.
- Feelings of depression or even thoughts of suicide.
- Extreme mood swings and emotions, such as anxiety, panic attacks, frequent crying and feeling out of control.
- Intense physical symptoms in cramps, bloating, tender breasts or severe headaches.
To see if you have PMDD here’s a quick quiz, but you should always consult with your doctor if you have a concern that you may be experiencing PMDD, not PMS.
Due to a lack of research, there is currently no known cause of PMDD, but it can be treated. If you speak with your doctor and discover you do have PMDD, they may prescribe medication in the form of birth control pills or even antidepressants.
Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the uterus begins growing outside of it, causing lesions that may break down and shed blood. This causes pain throughout the month and not just during the menstrual cycle. While endometriosis will feel different for every woman, here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Excessive bleeding.
- Pelvic cramping and pain beginning before your period and lasting after it is over.
- Pain with intercourse, bowel movements or urination.
- Other symptoms such as nausea, irregular bowel movements and excessive fatigue around the time of your period.
While there are different theories on the causes of endometriosis, it can be a difficult issue to manage, especially if it is caught too late. Treatment options will differ and can range from hormone therapy to pain killers and, in some extreme cases, a hysterectomy. Be sure to speak with your doctor right away if you think you have Endometriosis so they can carry out testing in the form of a pelvic exam, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Women are twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder, a specific range of disorders that include extreme levels of fear or worry. Some general symptoms of anxiety include:
- Feeling excessively nervous or irritable.
- Rapid breathing and increased heart rate, sweating or shaking.
- Regular panic attacks.
- Chronic problems with concentration.
- Gastrointestinal issues.
As far as treatment options go, a good start is seeking out a therapist to discuss the root of your anxiety issues with as well as your doctor and/or a psychiatrist to see if prescribed anxiety medication is a good option for you.
Pregnancy can bring with it its own set of health issues. Any pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated during pregnancy, such as diabetes, asthma, or hormonal imbalances. Mothers can develop postpartum depression. Some other potential complications during pregnancy include:
- High blood pressure/hypertension
- Gestational Diabetes
- Preterm Labor
- Severe morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum)
If you have any pre-existing conditions, or if you recognize some from the symptoms of the list of ailments listed above, it’s important to speak with a medical professional, specifically your OB/GYN about your concerns. With pregnancy, doctors are already monitoring your progress closely, but pointing out any additional issues you are facing could be helpful in ensuring you have as safe a pregnancy as possible.
Menopause is a condition that every woman will experience as they age and is not a disease or disorder. Menopause is essentially the ceasing of menstruation when the ovaries quit producing eggs. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause when the woman may experience symptoms such as:
- Changes in monthly cycles
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal dryness
- Lower sex drive
The typical age range for women experiencing menopause is 45-50 years of age, though every woman is different. Procedures such as a hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries can also trigger menopause earlier. Post-menopause, your risk for heart disease and osteoporosis goes up, so it’s important to be as preventative as possible with those two accompanying issues. Speak with your doctor or gynecologist as well if you think you are experiencing perimenopause.
Currently, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. When it comes to breast cancer, like many cancers, early detection is key. Early symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A lump, knot, or thickening in a certain area of the breast.
- Change in the size or shape of the breast.
- Pain in one area that doesn’t go away.
- Darkening, swelling, redness or dimpling of the breast.
Conducting regular self-breast exams is important, as well as going for a Mammogram at the age your doctor recommends (for most women 40). A mammogram is an x-ray photo taken of each breast that allows doctors to detect any masses or abnormalities in breast tissue. At MagView, we provide leading mammography tracking software solution and reporting system.
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Ovarian cancer is cancer that begins on the ovaries and is one of the more difficult cancers to detect early and treat. Symptoms include:
- Weight loss
- Quickly getting full while eating
- Pain, bloating, swelling or discomfort in the pelvic and abdominal areas.
- Abnormal bowel movements like constipation.
While there is no proven way to prevent ovarian cancer, taking birth control pills could be helpful in reducing your risk. You may also want to look into your level of risk through tests such as a genetic counselor who can test for different gene mutations that can cause cancer.
Cervical cancer affects the cells of the cervix which is the lower end of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Most cervical cancer has been proven to be caused by strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which we mentioned earlier in this article. While cervical cancer in its early stages typically shows no symptoms, here are some items to look out for:
- Vaginal bleeding between periods, after menopause or after intercourse.
- Unusual vaginal discharge that has a bad odor and/or is watery and bloody.
- General pelvic pain.
Vaccines have been developed against HPV which is one of the most important preventative measures you can take in lowering your risk of getting cervical cancer. It’s also important to visit your gynecologist for regular pap smears, which test for vaginal abnormalities including cervical cancer cells.
While it may be overwhelming to think about the most common female health problems, the key thing to remember is the many preventative measures you can take, whether it is in the form of regular check-ups, extra testing, vaccination or consulting your doctor about your concerns. The more proactive you are, the lower your risk of either developing some of these issues or at the least treating them as early as possible.